After two years of attending the same church, I was frustrated. I felt alone, neglected, and did not believe the church was serving my needs. It seemed to make more sense to worship God on my own rather than attend a weekly service with others. You may have felt this same way and perhaps have even left your church because of it. However, the Church is the family of God of which all believers are members. Whether or not we attend church service, all with faith in Christ are part of God’s family, the Church.
All saved by God’s grace are adopted into God’s family. The Apostle Paul explains our adoption in Romans 8:15, which says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father’” (New Living Translation). This verse reminds us that we were once slaves to our sins but believers are now the adopted sons and daughters of God. We have a heavenly Father who will never leave or forsake us because He has adopted us as His own.
But you are not the only child of God. Rather, you have brothers and sisters in Christ who have been adopted alongside you. The apostles make this clear as they consistently refer to other believers as brothers and sisters in Scripture (Romans 16:1, 1 Corinthians 1:10, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Galatians 1:11, Ephesians 6:23, Philippians 1:12). And just like you cannot choose the family you are born into, you cannot choose whether or not you belong to the Church as a Christian. What you can choose is whether or not you participate in the life of that family and whether you serve the needs of your family members.
Paul encourages us to love and honor our brothers and sisters in Christ later on in his letter to the Romans when he says, “Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another” (Romans 12:10). Paul challenges believers to not only view one another as family members but to love and honor each other in our words and actions in the same way we should to a blood relative. And we are able to do that through the Spirit that we receive when we are adopted (Romans 8:15).
After my first two years in the church, I began to realize that I was not just a member of an organization or group but a part of God’s family. And I learned that my church does not exist to give me everything that I want, just as my family does not provide me with all of my wants and desires all the time. However, God, who has loved me beyond measure, has called me to show that same type of love to others who follow Him. This requires me to serve and love others, even if I do not always feel I am being loved and served in return. Similar to parents who provide for their children for years before their children can help them in any meaningful way, I am called by God and helped by His Spirit to go out and love other Christ-followers even if they do not always love and honor me in return.
But God does not call us to do things that are not also for our good. As we serve and love our local churches, we can find a community that deeply loves us. When I pressed deeper into the community of my local church, serving where I could, I began to develop meaningful friendships with others. Around that time, my husband and I became pregnant, and we were flooded with gifts and supplies that helped us survive our first year as parents. We had couples volunteer to watch our firstborn so that we could get out into the world alone. When I needed the help of others, my brothers and sisters in Christ were there. I have never felt more loved, known, or encouraged in any other place besides the church.
If you haven’t done so in a while, I encourage you to take time today to examine your engagement in the church lately. Pray for God to give you a deep love for a church and a place to serve within it. If you are feeling dissatisfied with your local church, take a moment to confess your pain to God and ask for His help to heal all wounds. The Church is meant to be a thriving family full of love for God and one another. Let all who follow Jesus unite together as a family of God and become the church God intends us to be.
Additional resources on involvement in the church